4 Tips for Increasing Authenticity in your Onboarding Program


For several years now, I have had the (insanely fun) opportunity to consult with organizations and speak at conferences about the need for strategic, impactful onboarding and improving the new employee experience. I’ve had conversations over countless cups of coffee with HR leaders, training facilitators, talent development professionals and other industry friends about how to develop or reshape their organization’s onboarding program. Inevitably, the question arises:

I just want our onboarding program to be like yours! Can you just share your materials so I can use them?

(“Yours”  = the day job)

It’s true, our team has implemented an award-winning, internationally-recognized, results-minded onboarding program that has been the cherry on top of our Organizational Development sundae. And, yeah….I suppose I COULD just hand over our agenda, slide decks, templates and resources for you to plug-and-play at your day job.

But you would be lacking something. Something important. Something that your new employees and stakeholders would surely feel.

Your program would lack authenticity. 

Sure – imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, or so the saying goes. And perhaps certain elements of one company’s program could be integrated seamlessly into yours. I don’t claim that any of our organization’s onboarding program is unique by itself, but rather the intention, support and consistent execution coupled with innovative methods and a laser-focus on driving results are what truly determines our program’s long-term sustainability and success.

But as a longtime Talent Development geek professional (maybe I had it right the first time?), I know perfectly well that we all beg-borrow-and yes, steal ideas from each other all. the. time. The concept of idea-sharing is the very backbone of this blog, and so many others! So, how can you leverage some awesome ideas from other programs while ensuring yours is authentic? Here are 4 tips:

>> Don’t force it.

Maybe you learned about a super-cool idea that a colleague has implemented, and want to include it in your own program. Before jumping in immediately based on the cool factor, consider these factors to ensure relevance for your audience:

  • What is your colleague’s industry?
  • What are the employee demographics, schedules, geography, age and skill level?
  • What size is their organization?
  • Is it realistic for your program?

Ensuring that activities, events or other onboarding elements are a good fit are necessary to prevent content from feeling forced or misaligned with the audience.

>> Showcase what’s special.

What is unique about your organization or culture? Help your new employees forge a connection to the company, the team and their new roles. Maybe it’s the end-of-quarter Mimosa Monday celebrations, the annual Habitat for Humanity build or a commitment to diversity and inclusion. Find ways to share what your organization is doing, and how new employees can jump in and get involved.

And while you’re at it….

>> Who are your storytellers?

Whether it is your CEO personally welcoming your new employees on their first day, engaged employees sharing their personal experiences or hearing success stories from loyal customers, identify your raving fans and make their stories come alive during new employees’ crucial first days and weeks on the job. Deepen their attachment to the organization through a balance of relationships and results.


>> Align to your values

Someone once told me, “The only mission statement that matters is, ‘Have fun and make money.'” While a shred of that may hold true for most organizations, there are typically core values that serve as a compass for how organizations do business and make decisions. Aligning the content of your onboarding program with those unique drivers will help new employees embrace those values in their daily performance – both in those early weeks and months on the job, but also throughout their tenure with your organization.


There you have it, friends….beg, borrow and steal all the ideas you want, but make sure they make sense for your organization and people, and then make those ideas your own. Like spotting a bad toupee or a knockoff handbag from a street vendor, new employees can tell when a message isn’t genuine. And if they don’t figure it out in their first days on the job, they’ll discover it soon enough, which could put their long-term engagement and potential success on shaky ground.

Now, it’s your turn:

How do you ensure your new employees receive an authentic experience during their early days, weeks and months on the job? Please add a comment to share your ideas!



Wanna work together in 2018?

Between the launch of my book, Talent GPS: A Manager’s Guide to the Employee Development Journey, speaking engagements and consulting projects, 2017 has certainly whizzed by in a blur….and things are quickly ramping up for 2018. If an onboarding overhaul is on your to-do list for the coming year, let’s talk.

Now booking onsite workshops, retreat facilitation, conference sessions and more – availability is limited, so reserve your spot now!





Onboarding: Some Assembly Required


My 4-year old nephew, Logan, is obsessed with “As Seen on TV” products. Really obsessed. How many 4-year olds do you know cash in their piggy banks to buy a Pocket Hose Ultra? Well, that’s Logan. Love this little guy:

The happiest kid at the mall.
Yep, he cashed in his piggy bank money to buy a Pocket Hose Ultra.

We were shopping for his birthday present recently, and perused the toy and the “As Seen on TV” aisles at the store…because apparently that’s what you do when you’re shopping for an infomercial-aware preschooler. As a parent/aunt who has purchased many toys (not so many infomercial products) over the years, a line prominently displayed on many of the products made me laugh:

Some Assembly Required.

After we bought Logan’s presents (by the way, my son picked out a Slushy Magic kit for him…ironically, no assembly required, and amazingly, it DID actually work), that line played over and over in my head.

Friends, our onboarding programs are kind of like that…some assembly required.

When was the last time you updated your onboarding process? What about your New Employee Orientation materials or agenda? If you’re using the same, tired materials and content from the Clinton administration, it might be time to give your program an update.

As your company’s business objectives, strategies and drivers evolve, so should your onboarding program.

As policies, processes and people change, so should your onboarding program.

As training needs, procedures and systems change, so should your onboarding program.

Your onboarding program –  Orientation and other elements of the new employee experience – should be directly aligned to your company NOW, not your company a few years ago. Sure, it requires upkeep and maintenance to ensure that your content and materials are current, but a new team member needs to have the most up-to-date information, tools and resources available, so s/he can be successful. S/he deserves to have the “assembly” done ahead of time, so s/he doesn’t have to sort the current information from the outdated while trying to navigate a new company, team and role.

Your turn: How often do you take “inventory” of your onboarding program to ensure accuracy and relevance? Is there an element of your program that could use an update? Share your thoughts, tips and challenges in the comments!

Be kind – please share this post with your friends and followers!

Need help with your company’s onboarding program?

phase(two)learning can help with that! Contact us today to learn more about our Onboarding Audit package!


photo credit: Beth Combs

3 Easy Tips for a More Engaging New Employee Orientation Program


Deconstructing and revising an Orientation program is no small undertaking. Trust me, I’ve been there! I’m often asked for quick tips or best practices that can be quickly implemented to an existing New Employee Orientation program. Keeping in mind that every organization and program is different, there are some simple things that can be added to an Orientation program to make it a more engaging, robust part of the onboarding process.

Here are three tips:

1. Involve others in the program.

Maybe you’re the only person facilitating content throughout the Orientation session. If this is the case, the new employees are only meeting YOU. Which means, after the session, when they have questions, who are they calling? That’s right…you.

Even if you are not updating your content, provide opportunities to involve other people and teams in the Orientation process. A few examples might be:

  • Invite someone from your IT help desk provide a brief overview of how to set up computers, report or resolve issues, or connect email to personal devices.
  • Coordinate a panel discussion with key leaders (not necessarily executives) across your organization to share an overview of his/her role, history with the company and advice to new employees
  • Offer a catered breakfast or lunch, and include the employee’s hiring manager on the first day – use the opportunity to facilitate dialogue about how the new employees will be an asset to their respective teams!

2. Leverage templates and checklists.

If there are certain tasks that a new employee should complete during the first few days on the job, document them in the form of a checklist! This makes it easy for a new employee (who is likely overwhelmed by details) to stay on track with forms, tasks and other responsibilities during the transition time. Having clear instructions for during and after the Orientation session will put your attendees at ease, allowing them to focus on the content being delivered in the moment and make the most of the experience!

Additionally, from a facilitator’s point of view, using checklists, templates and other time-saving resources will only make the job easier, particularly when there is a tight agenda to which you must stick!

3. Make Orientation an active experience.

As with most learning sessions, providing an active, collaborative environment will yield better results. Rather than lecture, information-overload sessions, can your content be delivered in an alternative method?

A few lecture alternatives might include:

  • Scavenger hunts
  • Reading and summarizing content
  • Case studies

The good people at Langevin created this helpful (free!) resource with 50 instructional methods. The “lecturette” techniques are particularly good options to try. Enjoy!
Hopefully, these 3 tips will spark some inspiration to energize your existing New Employee Orientation program. It doesn’t take a full program overhaul to add in some engaging elements. Give these ideas a try!

Your turn: How do you provide an engaging experience for your newest employees?  Take a moment to share your thoughts in the comments below!

Looking to establish or energize your onboarding program this year? Contact us to learn more about our Onboarding Audit package!

Improving Training Programs with Feedback


As learning professionals (or whatever hat we might be wearing at any given moment), it is our responsibility to assess a learning need and provide a solution. And, tipping my cap to my passionate learning cohorts around the world, I’d say we do a fine job.

But, you know what? We don’t always have the answers. Or the perspective. Or even the right questions to ask. So we need to engage others.

This might be a pow-wow with a SME or project manager, to learn more about a task, process or system. It might be meeting with a supervisor to better understand a team’s skill or knowledge gaps.

But what about the employees themselves? How often are we asking them what they want out of training? What they need? How we can help them become a stronger employee today…and maybe-just-maybe, help prepare them for future opportunities?

The same goes for orientation and onboarding programs…consider doing a brief survey to poll your workforce, and see what you can learn about your new employee experience. A few questions might include:

  • When you started with (company name), what was the most helpful part of your onboarding experience?
  • What was your biggest challenge when you started in your role?
  • What advice would you give a new employee starting with (company name)?
  • What tools and resources are the biggest help to you?
  • Who was your go-to person when you were getting started in your role?
  • How can we improve the new employee experience at (company name)?

These simple questions can give you perspective that can help you strengthen your process and program. You can use these questions as a foundation, and tweak or expand them based on the program – these examples focus on the new employee experience, but just imagine how a few strategic questions can help you evolve your other training initiatives, leadership development programs, employee transitions and more.

The important thing is to stay curious, friends. We should continuously seek out feedback and suggestions from our various stakeholders, from the executives to the end users, and from all cubicles in between.

Your turn: How do you engage your organization beyond the standard needs analysis or evaluation process? What information have you gained from employees that have impacted your learning programs?

Like it?  Share it!

Ready or Not?


Hey manager!  Ready or not…here comes your new employee!

If a hiring manager doesn’t have a lot of turnover on her team, she may not give a lot of thought to preparing for a new employee’s arrival. On the flip side, a hiring manager who is often bringing on new team members might find herself lacking a consistent preparation process.

If you’ve read previous posts (like this one…or maybe this one) that are directed toward hiring managers, you’re probably already aware of my thoughts on this subject. The hiring manager plays a key role in the successful onboarding of a new employee. I can’t say it enough. In fact, I’m going to say it one. more. time.

The hiring manager (that’s you, maybe?) plays a key (mission-critical, really) role in the successful onboarding of a new employee. Tweet this

Sure, other people play an important role in the process, too. But this is on you. Whether you do it yourself, or you delegate some of the tasks to others on your team, you need to make sure that certain things are ready before your newest team member walks through that front door on his first day.

Now, don’t stress, my friends; I’m going to do some of the legwork for you today. Here is your to-do list, a simple compilation of 10 things that you, dear hiring manager, need to have ready in preparation for Day #1:

1. The employee’s desk/workstation/office – Everyone needs a place to sit. You wouldn’t believe the horror stories I’ve heard about people starting new jobs, only to find their desk had been serving as the office catch-all, or was still full of junk left over from the previous desk tenant. I have personally moved into an office, only to find a stockpile of stale granola bars, likely sitting there since the Reagan administration. Yuck. Give your new employee a clean home, please.

2. The employee’s computer, phone, and other necessary equipment and supplies – You can’t expect an employee to do his job unless he has the tools to do so. Make sure this is taken care of in advance; scrambling around after the employee has started sends the message that disorganization reigns supreme in your office. And nobody wants to work there.

3. A lunch date with you on his first day – Take him out of the building, if possible. Ask him what he thinks so far. See if he has any questions. Learn more about him as a person. Be genuine. Start building the foundation for a solid professional relationship.  Be the manager you’d want to work for.

4. A team lunch or social event during his first week – Help him get acquainted with the folks he will be working with. The sooner he can build these allies, the more it will help him assimilate into the team and company culture, and the more he will be able to learn from them.

5. Plenty of meeting time on your calendar during his first few weeks – Give him feedback. Ask for his feedback. Set expectations early on. Open communication is so important during the onboarding process. What am I saying…it’s important all the time.

6. Tasks or projects where the new employee can contribute during the first weeks – Securing “quick wins” is a major factor in the successful onboarding of leaders at all levels. Look for opportunities for the new employee to be productive, early on. He doesn’t need to be able to solve complex business issues – after all, he doesn’t have the context around the issues yet to fully grasp them. But finding strategic areas to contribute will help him build his credibility with you, with the team, and across the organization.

7. Personally introduce the new employee to key stakeholders across the organization – Take the time to walk him around and make some introductions. Coordinate an email or introductory audio or video conference to introduce him to remote colleagues or partners. Schedule informal meet-and-greet sessions (more info on meet-and-greets can be found here). Make sure your new employee is visible.

8. Coordinate a corporate credit card/expense account, travel guidelines or a company car (if needed) – If your employee will need these items, make sure your employee has them. A new employee will not necessarily understand the process, nor will he know who the go-to people are to arrange for these things. Take a moment. Take care of it.

9. Make arrangements for the new employee to attend any company-wide or department-specific new hire training – Craft short and long-term learning plans for him. Make sure he is fully enabled on systems, processes, products and any compliance-related topics. A knowledgeable, confident employee is often a more productive, loyal employee.

10. Do something nice for your new employee – Even the simplest gesture can tell the new employees that you’re happy they’re on the team. Have the team sign a welcome card. Have fresh flowers waiting on her desk when she arrives on her first day. If your organization is big on branded swag, have a fun coffee mug or t-shirt ready. It really doesn’t matter WHAT you do…just take a moment to show your appreciation. Give the new employee a reason to smile on her drive home that night.

Not so scary, huh? You can definitely do this. Some of these items are very practical and specific. Others will vary, based on the new employee’s role, your personal style and your company’s culture. Regardless, these items should somehow be incorporated into your process. To simplify it even further, I’ve created a handy little Onboarding Checklist for you to download.  Use it, tweak it, make it your own…just DO something! Your new employees deserve to have their onboarding experience be a positive one, don’tcha think?

Your turn: Tell me, hiring managers, what is on your onboarding checklist? How do you welcome someone to your team?

Like it? Share it!

Pinterest for Onboarding: Part Two


In my last post, I threw out this crazy little notion about incorporating Pinterest into employee onboarding programs.  I promised that there would be a Part 2…and here it is:

I’ve got 3 more board possibilities for you, so between last week’s post and this one, you’ll have 8…count ’em…8 ideas for boards you can easily create and utilize in your onboarding efforts.

Board #6: Leadership Profiles

Does your website have a page dedicated to your leadership team?  Your Board of Directors?  Other strategic leaders?  A board that links to an online bio (or even a video bio!) of these key individuals would be a great tool for educating an incoming employee on their career background and history with the organization.  Linking to videos or written works by these leaders also gives an insightful glimpse into their role and style.  For new employees who will be interacting with leaders at this level (or just working to build influence at this level), this is valuable material!

Board #7: Events & Conferences

Many companies host a user conference, symposium or other events throughout the year.  Posting videos, registration information, recorded webinars, photos, handouts and other resources from these events is a terrific way educate incumbents (not to mention prospects and customers!) on your products, services, and special events.  Additionally, if employees are featured presenters at other conferences throughout your industry, link to those resources as well!  This will both showcase the talent in your organization and provide excellent industry information to a new employee who is looking to educate him/herself.

Board #8: Campus-to-Corporate (Internship Resources)

If your organization has an internship program, having a visual board to link to specific resources that are relevant for these young professionals would be a value-add!  You can incorporate photos from your program, details about applying for an internship, and even link to helpful articles that would benefit young employees – topics like:

  • How to look professional for a job interview
  • Preparing for a job interview
  • Building professional relationships/networking tips
  • Resume building
  • Responsible social media use
  • Adjusting to your first post-college job

As I’ve researched this topic, I have found that Pinterest can be a wonderful playground for just about anything. So, why not learning?  Why not onboarding?  Why not leadership?  If it fits with your overall strategy and objectives….why not?

If you’re doing a little discovery, feel free to follow my own Learning & Development Playground board on Pinterest!

Your turn: Are you going to give Pinterest a try?  I’d love to hear your ideas and plans!

Like it? Share it!

The Art of the Meet & Greet


The Meet & Greet is a beloved component of many onboarding programs.  I’m going out on a limb, however, and guess that many hiring managers love them for the wrong reasons.  Let’s ruffle some feathers:

Reasons I Think (Some) Hiring Managers Love Meet & Greets:

1. They’re pretty easy to coordinate.

2. Most of the “work” falls on someone else.

3. You can easily fill a new employee’s schedule for his first days/weeks, and the hiring manager has to spend very little time with the new employee.

4. The hiring manager can pat himself on the back thinking his new employee has been “productive” and sufficiently “onboarded”.

(Okay, ouch.  Too much?)

Friends, we need to teach hiring managers in our organizations the art of the Meet & Greet.

Meet & Greet sessions can be a value-rich addition to the new employee experience, but they can also prove to be nothing more than a revolving door of random employees babbling about complex initiatives, jargon, irrelevant titles and biased opinions.  During the first days and weeks on the job, even the sharpest new employee has very little context to understand these things.

Here are five strategies for effectively using Meet & Greet sessions when onboarding new employees:

1.  Before the new employee starts, identify key individuals that will bring value to his first days on the job.

Key individuals.  Not everyone the incumbent will eventually work with.  Consider the employee’s role, responsibilities and early projects or initiatives.  The hiring manager should look to the immediate team, other close allies and essential vendors.  These people should have an integral role in the employee’s success.

2.  Reach out directly to those individuals and prepare them for the meeting.

Sorry to break the news, but dropping a vague meeting invite on a person’s calendar does not count as “reaching out directly”.  A phone call or even an informative email would be fine.  If you do choose to go straight to a meeting invite, make sure the purpose of the meeting is clearly stated in the body of the invite!  Let’s explore this one…

Sample email/meeting invite body:

Hello Key Individual,

We will be welcoming a new addition to our team next week!  John Smith will be joining us as our new .  His first day will be Monday, January 14.  To help integrate John to our team, we are scheduling a few informal “meet & greet” sessions with key individuals within the organization.  Since you will be working directly with John on the Very Important Project, it would be great if you two could sit down for a few minutes and get acquainted, discuss your role and team, and how you will be working together.

Also, if you have any helpful advice or resources for John as he gets started with the company, I’m sure he would be appreciative!

Please let me know if this time will work for your meeting, or if you need any more information.  Thanks, Key Individual!

Warm regards,

Hiring Manager

This small effort will help the individual prepare for this meeting, and it will help drive a more effective, meaningful dialogue.  Plus, it’s just nice.  And isn’t nice, well, nice?

3.  Make sure the new employee’s schedule is well balanced with other activities.

Avoid the fire hose!  Any Meet & Greet sessions should be a component of the onboarding process, not its entirety.  Furthermore, if your new employee is rushing to and from back-to-back-to-back-to-back meetings for his entire first week, you haven’t found balance.

Remember, a balanced onboarding program should incorporate these three tenets:

  • Welcome to the company
  • Welcome to the team
  • Welcome to the job

Hiring managers, your organization’s Orientation program will probably hopefully do a decent job with introducing your new employee to the company.  Team?  Job?  These should fall a little more heavily on you.  After all, you are the one who has been involved in the selection of this new employee.  You know what his role will entail.  You know who he will be working with.  You know the systems, tools and resources that will be used regularly.

Own it, hiring managers.

Coordinate the Meet & Greet sessions.  Give him time to get settled.  Provide training when necessary. Begin discussing projects or tasks where the employee can be productive and build early credibility.  Think about those quick wins your new employee can strive toward, and involve him.

4.  Provide a detailed agenda for the new employee.

We’ve discussed a balanced agenda, figuratively.  This one is simple – give him an agenda, literally.  Create a document he can carry with him for his first week, even if these meetings are on his calendar.  Don’t underestimate the comfort of something tangible.  On the agenda, include the dates/times (obvs), meeting room locations (Does he know his way around yet?  Does he need a map?), the names of the people he will be meeting with (and their roles), and any other pertinent information.

5.  The hiring manager should make time for the new employee. Daily.

The Meet & Greet is an enhancement to your onboarding program.  It is not a replacement for you, hiring manager.  Every day, in a variety of channels, you should be reaching out to the employee. The morning greeting, a midday check-in, and an end of day debrief are three essentials to incorporate, but don’t stop there!  Here are a few easy ways to let your new employee know you’re involved and available:

  • Take your new employee to lunch at least once during his first week (please make sure someone takes him to lunch on his first day, if you are unable to do this yourself!)
  • Organize a team lunch/dinner during his first week
  • Send an IM to periodically check in (be careful not to nag or micromanage!)
  • Include him in your routine mid-afternoon walk to the vending machine
  • Meet with him for 10-15 minutes at the end of each day of his first week – review his day, answer any questions, follow up as needed
  • Make an effort to get acquainted with your employee as a human being, not just as an employee!
  • Walk the new employee around the building and informally introduce him to department leaders
  • Make sure he has the supplies he needs; arrange for items that must be ordered
  • Discuss his job description – ensure that expectations are clear and everyone is on the same page!

There you have it.  Whether you are an HR professional, a Learning & Development practitioner or a hiring manager, you can play a role in facilitating meaningful dialogue between new employees and their tenured counterparts.  Those who own the onboarding process have the responsibility of enabling hiring managers to effectively embrace and immerse a new employee into the team and job.  Hiring managers should take ownership of knowing what the new employee needs and doing something about it, so your incumbent will find success.  We’re all responsible…and in our ways and roles, we’re all accountable.

Your turn:  Are Meet & Greet sessions a part of your onboarding program?  How do you utilize these meetings?  Has it been successful in your organization?  Please share your thoughts!
Like it?  Share it!